Barbara Nicolosi is the director of Act One: Writing for Hollywood, a training program for Christian screenwriters. This excerpt reprinted from Back to the Drawing Board: The Future of the Pro-Life Movement with permission of St. Augustine's Press.

There is no arena of American society that has been more consistently and squarely pro-choice than the entertainment industry. Everybody with any real power in movies and television is either hysterically pro-choice, or else indignantly pro-choice, or else so completely engulfed in the abortion mentality that questioning it strikes them as annoyingly bizarre, like questioning the morality of dental floss or Belgian waffles. But thirty years into this total domination of the culture of entertainment, polls continue to show the American public ambivalent about abortion. And strangely, despite the passionate consensus about the glory of the pro-choice cause among entertainment artists and executives, there has not been the full-scale onslaught on this issue that we have seen addressed to other areas of social policy like racism or anti-Semitism, as in the hundreds of Holocaust films. Truly, never have so many powerful people done so little to make an impact on an issue about which they feel so desperately. The question is, "Why?" For answers, we will consider some of the industry's most recent attempts to address abortion rights in cinema and on television. What do these projects have to say to us? Have there been any kind of similar pro-life forays on the screen? Should there be?.....One of the weirdest aspects of the abortion movies is their attempt to recast the role of the movie hero into the radical providers and protectors of abortion rights. It's a hard sell because traditionally in movies, heroes are those who do the right thing, not those who do a regrettable thing. Universally, the pro-choice hero characters are presented as ambivalent about the difficult choice involved in having an abortion, and their very heroism is couched in their ability to swallow their ambivalence to help women in need. In The Cider House Rules, Dr. Larch cannot do what he does without a daily dose of mind-numbing ether. We catch Cher's abortionist in If These Walls Could Talk in a private tearful moment, before she rolls up her sleeves and exchanges her bulletproof vest for a white coat and suction hose. She is challenged by pregnant Chris with the question, "Why do you still do this?" With painful earnestness, Dr. Thompson expresses the driving force behind her career choice as, "When a woman comes to me and says she doesn't know what she would have done without my help, I know I am doing the right thing."
In The Cider House Rules, the climactic moment for the main character, gentle young Homer, comes when he sets aside his own pro-life instincts to perform an abortion. He is a hero, the film suggests, because he doesn't let his conscience stop him from doing the right thing. How weird is that vision of conscience and human moral choices? Also presented as heroic are the pregnant women who push ahead, trying to make their best choice, even if it causes them anguish. Interestingly, the only ones who don't show any ambivalence about abortion are the post-abortive women. The pro-choice dogma here is that all of a woman's angst comes before the procedure. Once the fetus is terminated, however, so are the doubts and struggles. As one post-abortive woman shrugs in If These Walls Could Talk, "You know, people told me I would feel depressed and guilty. But, honestly, all I felt was relief." We know the filmmakers are being dishonest here because everywhere in America, churches and counselors, family and friends are finding themselves called on to help women pick up the pieces after their abortions. I know. I was there one long evening with a suicidal college junior who had aborted her four-and-a-half-month fetus that day. She had been enthusiastically escorted to the clinic by volunteers from the campus women's center, and then dropped off summarily afterward back at the dorm. The girl was crying at that point and one of the women's center volunteers proposed that she get drunk and then forget about it. I'll never forget her lying in a heap on the floor of her dorm room, smelling of alcohol and pleading with me to tell her that her baby hadn't felt any pain. This is a strong case for us because it is all about the women. We need to present much more clearly and consistently that the real struggle with abortion comes afterward for most women. The argument is ours to make that abortion haunts women much more because of their own nature than because they have been trained by social convention. Overall the movies reveal that pro-choice America cannot evade its own ambivalence. They know that championing abortion feels icky. They are trying to convince themselves that the abolitionists and suffragettes and social reformers must have felt icky too, but deep down inside, they sense that the opposite is true. Certainty about moral convictions is very often the only consolation for long-suffering social heroes. This ambivalence explains why abortion is not ubiquitous in the movies. They'll say the issue is too touchy to be entertaining, but so is racism and anti-Semitism, and the industry doesn't shy away from these. We need to keep the focus on the source of ambivalence here. What is it that makes abortion such a hard choice for women? Why should it be "safe and rare"?
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